Life-history traits and landscape characteristics predict macro-moth responses to forest fragmentation.
Slade EM., Merckx T., Riutta T., Bebber DP., Redhead D., Riordan P., Macdonald DW.
How best to manage forest patches, mitigate the consequences of forest fragmentation, and enable landscape permeability are key questions facing conservation scientists and managers. Many temperate forests have become increasingly fragmented, resulting in reduced interior forest habitat, increased edge habitats, and reduced connectivity. Using a citizen science landscape-scale mark-release-recapture study on 87 macro-moth species, we investigated how both life-history traits and landscape characteristics predicted macro-moth responses to forest fragmentation. Wingspan, wing shape, adult feeding, and larval feeding guild predicted macro-moth mobility, although the predictive power of wingspan and wing shape depended on the species' affinity to the forest. Solitary trees and small fragments functioned as "stepping stones," especially when their landscape connectivity was increased, by being positioned within hedgerows or within a favorable matrix. Mobile forest specialists were most affected by forest fragmentation: despite their high intrinsic dispersal capability, these species were confined mostly to the largest of the forest patches due to their strong affinity for the forest habitat, and were also heavily dependent on forest connectivity in order to cross the agricultural matrix. Forest fragments need to be larger than five hectares and to have interior forest more than 100 m from the edge in order to sustain populations of forest specialists. Our study provides new insights into the movement patterns of a functionally important insect group, with implications for the landscape-scale management of forest patches within agricultural landscapes.